STONEHAM - With the endorsement of Town Moderator Jeanne Craigie, the Select Board last week postponed May's Annual Town Meeting in light of the ongoing COVID-19 emergency.

During a virtual gathering via a video conferencing service last Tuesday night, the town officials voted unanimously to delay the annual assembly until Monday, June 29. The decision came on the same night that municipal elections, which technically count as Article 1 of the spring town meeting warrant, were also pushed out until June 2.

According to Select Board Chair Shelly MacNeill, even if a series of prohibitions on large public gatherings were lifted in May, the COVID-19 crisis has left town officials with little time to analyze a series of proposed warrant articles that will highlight the agenda for the annual assembly.

Ultimately, the likelihood of a May return to normalcy is pretty slim, as earlier this week, Mass. Governor Charles Baker extending mandatory school and non-essential business closures until May 4, while U.S. President Donald Trump has also recommended the public practice social distancing behaviors for at least the next 30 days.

Town officials say the COVID-19 crisis has also wreaked chaos for those who work in in the realm of preparing government tax and budget forecasting.

With Stoneham's representatives also concentrating on the public health emergency in front of them, both local officials and the electorate has also been given little time to digest the $74.6 million budget proposal for FY'20 that was unveiled by Town Administrator Sheehan last month.

So far, state officials are still trying to figure out what kind of budget approval extensions will be granted for communities. But with Baker and Beacon Hill's legislators themselves distracted by the state's emergency response to the pandemic, it's almost certain they will need to push out their own budgetary deliberations past the normal early summer season.

"There's a lot of stuff happening in terms of timeframes for budgets. We have been in touch with the moderator, and she is comfortable with us discussing [this topic]," said MacNeill.

According to Town Counsel William Galvin, Craigie as moderator is able to exercise the authority to delay the start of Town Meeting for up to 30-days due to safety issues.

Select Board veteran Caroline Colarusso, who supported the delay, told her colleagues that she felt the June 29 date was appropriate, because voters will have participated in municipal elections a few weeks prior.

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